Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wage inequality

I heard a blurb on BSU Radio about wage inequality in Idaho. It was short, and I'm not sure I heard everything, but what I thought I heard was that women in Idaho generally get paid about 60% of what men get paid.

Well, maybe, but I doubt that it's that simple.

I believe that there are instances where women, everything else being equal, get paid less. Lily Ledbetter, for one. But, I think the "women get paid less" meme is mostly inaccurate or at least overstated.

These stats, or what I read and hear of them, almost never take into account differing circumstances. I believe that by and large women doing the same job, for the same length of time, with the same qualifications and experience, get paid the same as men. Wage discrimination is just wrong and often actionable, and most people know it, and therefore don't do it.

I've worked at a number of places over the last 25 years, and have had access to pay information, and I've not seen any gender based wage discrimination. Larger employers, HP, Micron, the State of Idaho, have human resources professionals involved, and have structures in place to ensure that wage discrimination doesn't happen. And they want to avoid lawsuits.

At the last place I worked, I know for. a. provable. fact. that the women tended to get better raises, especially the women managers. And that can't be the only place that has happened, which should offset overall rates of wage disparity in favor of men.

I'm not saying gender-based wage discrimination doesn't exit. I believe it does. I'm also not saying that there are lots of places where the wage discrimination favors women, but I know there are some places. I'm just saying, I guess, don't believe the stats without looking deeper. I think that wage discrimination is not widespread. Wage disparity may well be, but there are reasons for wage disparity.

My female direct supervisor makes more than me. She's been here longer, and she has supervisory duties. She ought to be making more. I don't think that's wage discrimination, but it is wage disparity.

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